Mary J. Novak, J.D., M.A.P.S.
Mary J. Novak serves as Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. In April 2021, she became the sixth woman, and first lay leader, to guide the organization, which was founded by Catholic Sisters over 50 years ago.
Mary’s experience as an organizer, activist, trauma-informed lawyer, educator, chaplain, and restorative justice practitioner, informs her ability to integrate all aspects of NETWORK to advance the organization’s mission; and has inspired her to initiate a shared leadership model for the first time in NETWORK’s history. Together, the leadership team is positioning NETWORK for the future, strengthening relationships with partners who serve the common good, and ensuring that the NETWORK community flourishes in the shared pursuit of justice.
Prior to leading NETWORK, Mary served as Associate Director of Mission Integration and law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. In this role, she worked at the intersection of spirituality, psychology, and the work of justice, creating the conditions for law students, staff, and faculty to grow in trauma-informed lawyering and pedagogy in the Ignatian Tradition.
A graduate of Santa Clara University (SCU) Law School, Mary practiced water, energy, environmental, and natural resources law, and served on teams pursuing capital appeals for men on California’s death row, first at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and then at Ellison & Schneider. After serving as a member of the Clinical Law Faculty at SCU’s East San Jose Community Law Center, Mary later served as Director for Faculty Development in what is now SCU’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education.
Mary studied theology and spirituality at SCU and later at Washington Theological Union (WTU), earning a Masters of Arts in Pastoral Studies. She has served pastorally, including as a spiritual director, in hospitals and universities for two decades. After studying peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Mary focused her final project at WTU on Catholic Peacebuilding learning circle processes from the Maryknoll Sisters in the context of Kenya’s post-election reconciliation. Upon returning to the U.S., she served the Leadership Conference of Women Religious as they navigated the Doctrinal Assessment with the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
From 2014-2020, Mary served as the founding Chair of the Board of the Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN) which is part of the Congregation of St. Joseph (CSJ) Mission Network. Mary’s leadership helped grow CMN into a strong and stable non-profit working to end the use of the death penalty and promote restorative justice. After her formative experience with the Congregation of St. Joseph, Mary made her lifetime commitment as an Associate in 2019. She finds the CSJ community and its charism of unifying love a constant source of support, inspiration and wisdom.
Mary also serves as Chair of the Advisory Board of the Initiative on Restorative Justice and Healing at University of St. Thomas School of Law and is the author of “Forming Restorative Justice Practitioners: Learning to Make Meaning of our Trauma Exposure Response,” University of St. Thomas Law Journal, Volume 17-1, 2020. She continues to serve as a restorative justice practitioner in faith-based contexts.
The Center for American Progress named Mary one of “21 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2021.”
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